Hugh Freeze Press Conference: 10.07

Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)

Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)

Oct. 7, 2013

Ole Miss football head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media Monday to discuss the Rebels’ performance last Saturday at Auburn and preview Ole Miss’ upcoming matchup against Texas A&M.


BLOG: Containing Johnny Manziel

Opening statement: 

“Obviously we’re not happy with where we are, but we thank God we’re not where we used to be. The journey continues. It’s been a very difficult stretch of road games. I’m disappointed in the outcome, but I’m extremely proud of the fight and battle our young men showed. Again, that stretch of road games was very difficult. We’re thrilled to come back home, but it doesn’t get much easier with Texas A&M and LSU coming in back-to-back weeks – two top-10 teams. It’s a very difficult stretch even at home. To not be on the road in hostile environments you can change some of your communication stuff and get back to normal. At the same time, get more rest and not get here at 4 a.m. [Sunday] mornings and then get back up ready to go again on Sunday. It’s going to do us all a lot of good to get back home. But again, it doesn’t get much easier.

“Texas A&M, certainly, is very deserving of its ranking. Kevin (Sumlin) has done a tremendous job in the short time he’s been there. And of course, Johnny Manziel makes them very difficult to defend. They know who they are, they know what they want to do, they’re very good at what they do and he makes what they do very special, along with (Mike) Evans and a few others. They have a lot of good players. O-line is a strength of theirs and it has been for both years, along with Johnny and the receiving corps and the running backs are above average also. There are really no weaknesses on their offensive side. Defensively, they’re a bit younger than they were last year, but have improved each game and present challenges there also with a veteran defensive coordinator. We’ve got another very difficult test ahead of us and I’m excited about getting back out tomorrow and getting our kids ready for it.”

On what the plan was against Johnny Manziel last season and if they will have to change it:

“You have to be multiple. You can’t just give them one thing. There are no bad coaches in this league and they have tremendous players, so they will make adjustments if they get a beat on exactly what you’re doing. We did have a good plan (last year). We contained him for the better part of three quarters, but in the fourth quarter he showed why he won the Heisman trophy. We’ll look at last year’s (tape) very closely and use what we thought was good, and try to mix in some new stuff. We were able to create some turnovers last year which was big. Hopefully we can have a repeat of that performance and contain him a bit – you’re not going to stop him, but hopefully contain him and give us a chance to be in it late in the game.”

On if he believes Johnny Manziel’s passing has improved this season: 

“You notice he doesn’t mind standing in the pocket longer. He was a good thrower last year, too. We were hoping he wasn’t, but when you face him live you realized he was. He certainly does not mind standing in the pocket longer this year. They probably worked on that to minimize some of the hits he takes and him developing as more of a complete quarterback. So yes, you can tell work has been put in on him doing that.”

On C.J. Johnson’s status:

“C.J. is day-to-day – same thing as last week. Last week we waited until Thursday, this week we’re going to – actually tomorrow – take him out of the boot and try to do some things. We should have, maybe, an earlier diagnosis of what we project it to be for Saturday.”

On how much work will go in this week to work on the running game:

“Well, we work on the running game every week. We want to run the ball. We want to be balanced. I think our stats prove that over the course of time. We like to be balanced, but teams are taking certain things away from us that are making us try to do different things that maybe we’re not as gifted as a team. We have to continue to work on those things because good teams make you do different things than what your bread and butter are typically. We’ll work hard again on doing some things. We had a good package last week that we really liked that was good to us early on, particularly with Barry (Brunetti) in the game, but we just got behind and didn’t feel like we could be as balanced in doing certain things. We’re going to continue working on our running game.”

On if he’s aggressive by nature or if the team’s fourth-down attempts are more situational:

“I’m aggressive by nature, but we’re also at a point in our program right now where you want to prove to your kids we’re not coming there to be close. We want to come in and win. The ones late in the game I thought were reasonable chances where you needed to score touchdowns because you knew at any point they could. We needed to get some points on the board. But I am aggressive by nature, too.”

On the road trips and if he’s seen an impact on the players:

“The young kids have definitely woken up and said, ‘You know what, this college grind of a season is difficult.’ You see the young kids in particular, having to go through the study hall, and tutoring, and classes, and then everything we ask them to go through. Then to get back home with some of the late trips we’ve had, be back here Sunday for a pretty thorough day also. There are times all of us wish we could just lay at home a day and watch the NASCAR race or the President’s Cup. That’s just probably human nature. So yeah, I don’t know if physically, because I think we have a good plan, but mentally, I think it’s stressed them a bit. Being at home is going to help us get back maybe to a little more normalcy, because that’s not a typical season. I don’t know if I’ve ever coached in (a season) that’s been shaped like this. Hopefully they’ll get back to some normalcy.”

On the short yardage, power-inside running:

“The times we used it was really good with Barry (Brunetti) in the game and having different options whether to run the tailback, run him or the different things we could do there. (I’Tavius Mathers) is improving and getting healthy and allowing us to do that better. But, is that our strength? In this league, if you’re going to run inside, besides inside zone, you’re going to run inside power, you better have – these ends are 270 pounds, 280 pounds – a guy who is maybe a little more built for that. This is who we are right now. We lost all of our tight ends in one year. The Ferbia Allen’s of the world, who are 250-260 pounds, you felt like you could do some of that with. We’ve been working on some things, and then we had some injuries to Carlton Martin and C.J. Johnson and switch a guy back over to the other side who we were trying to get some things ready for. Hopefully we can do that at some point.”

On the pressure the team feels to win the next two games, or one of the next two games:

“I don’t feel that way. That’s the way people feel, and unfortunately our players have to hear that. We’ve had one full recruiting class and our kids have come miles. We’re playing in a very difficult league with a difficult schedule, and unfortunately people want to create expectations in a short amount of time in our society. That’s not just in football. They want return. They want it now. The product that our kids are giving them – again, we’re all disappointed we didn’t win. We want to win every one of them, but we want to continue to walk in victory daily in our mindset. When you have a negative mindset that creeps in because you’ve lost a few games in the early stages of a building process, it’s frustrating that your kids have to hear that. You sure hope it doesn’t affect their mentality moving forward. I don’t think about it. I just think about Texas A&M, and us competing and having a chance to win it. That’s my mindset in getting our team better from last week to this week. Having a sound plan and not giving up explosive run plays and missing tackles. We cut up 22 plays yesterday that I think had an impact on that game. It was not a lack of effort. Our kids are flying around, playing hard, but we didn’t make the play. Either our eyes were bad, we chose to do something other than what we were supposed to do, or I didn’t coach it well enough. And I tell our kids when that’s the case. But we had 22 of those. A dropped ball on third down – we had two of them. Those are the things that keep drives going that give you a chance to score one more touchdown that may win the game. I know that’s the public opinion, but I don’t adhere to that at all, and hopefully our kids don’t.”

On if he changed the language of his plays at all last week and if that led to confusion:

“The confusion between the quarterbacks and receivers was not because of the verbiage, because they don’t hear the verbiage anyway. Bo (Wallace) has to understand things and make sure they’re on the same page if he’s going to change something. There’s no verbiage going on. It was so loud in that end of the stadium at the time. But yeah, we did change stuff because of our familiarity with each other. I’m sure they did too. We signaled things different last week than we have all year, but that wasn’t an issue. I talked to Gus (Malzahn) this morning and compared a few things – not in depth – we may tip each other off for some help. I don’t think that had anything to do with it.”

On if he can still get some perimeter runs with teams kicking their defensive ends out:

“I don’t know how. That would be very difficult. If you’re going to put a tight end with his hand in the ground would be the way to do it. Can you win that battle? I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s who we are right now. But we had a really good plan against that. We knew it was coming. You have to block them. If they’re going to do that you have to block them. We only had two negative plays all night in the run game. I’m not talking about sacks, I’m talking about negative plays in the game. Penalties and sacks certainly hurt us. Penalties killed us in the first quarter. We were moving the ball but couldn’t ever get anything consistent because of that. We knew the plan was coming. It’s a great plan to take away what other teams do best. I can show you on board sometime what our adjustment was, but you’ve got to block them.”

On other players who got banged up at Auburn:

“We sure hope we get Carlton (Martin) back. We didn’t have him and that hurt us. We were having to play Issac (Gross), (Bryon) Bennett and Woody (Woodrow Hamilton) too many snaps in there, particularly Issac. Carlos Thompson got hurt in the first quarter. He’s probably not going to be available this week so that’s another hit to the defensive line. Offensively we have a toe issue on Evan Swindall but he’ll be fine. Donte (Moncrief) will be alright. He practiced yesterday. We just probably have to limit his contact Tuesday and Wednesday. Jeff Scott has a thigh bruise, but he’ll be fine.”

On the challenges covering Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans:

“Everybody wanted us to copy their plan in playing Alabama. I wanted to show them on tape where 270 yards came from a guy going up and just making a play, which he’s very good at. We saw that on fourth and 19 last year at our place. Senquez (Golson) had perfect coverage on him and he just went up over him. We have to think through that. We’ve thought about a lot of crazy things. We’re trying to think out of the box a little bit on who we might put on him in some situations that could compete for a jump ball with him. We’re thinking along those lines. But certainly, even if you have him covered there’s no guarantee that he’s not going to make the play. He’s got a few other good receivers too around him. You’ve got to be careful, you can’t just put two out there all the time on him or they’ll kill you with the run or the other receivers.”

On where Channing Ward stands and what they do at defensive end if C.J. Johnson and Carlos Thompson cannot go Saturday:

“Channing (Ward) graded out fairly well the other night. I’m not sure exactly how many plays he had because we ended up staying in a three-man front a good bit. Channing will definitely be in the mix depending on what we decide to run up front.

“We’re also considering moving D.T. (Shackelford) back for a certain package that would put D.T.’s hand back on the ground some in certain situations. He would give us another athletic guy off the edge.”

On if there are positions that are easier for freshmen to play:

“It’s tough in this league. There are many who are doing it right now and some are having great success. The easiest position to teach would be D-line. That doesn’t mean it’s the easiest to play it against some of the O-linemen we come up against, but that would be the easiest to mentally learn. The hardest is the secondary, unless you’re just going to play some base coverage and not get too far out on things. But there are so many adjustments that have to be made, and knowing where your help is and when you’re by yourself and the technique in general is usually different from the high school level in the secondary to the college level. I would think that’s the most difficult. But again, there are quite a few who are doing it and doing it pretty well.”

On if the sacks by Auburn were due to one-on-one battles or other aspects: 

“There were six sacks. Four of them were one-on-one losses and two of them the quarterback should have read the right side and gotten rid of the ball. But four of them they just beat us one-on-one. But the problem, again, I don’t want to sound like I’m beating up the O-line. When you get in third and long situations, the O-line in this league is going to have a hard time winning. Not just at Ole Miss. The defensive lines in this league, and people forget, I don’t know exactly how many years, somebody told me it was seven but I don’t want to say that because I don’t know if that’s true, but Auburn has had seven or so top-10 classes in the nation. It’s not like they don’t have great players there. Gus (Malzahn) is doing a phenomenal job with them and they’re playing hard now this year. They have chemistry, they’ve bought in and their quarterback is athletic, but that defense has some players on it now. You’re not going to win in third and 10 and third and nine.”

On if it’s easier for a team that has won a lot to rebuild:

“I think that, but I don’t know that everyone believes that. Anyone who looks at where we were with the depth issues that we had, should know one class or one-and-a-half classes – we had about three weeks that first class – is not going to get us to exactly where we want to get. But it’s in the right direction. I wasn’t there before Gus (Malzahn), and I have great respect for Gene (Chizik), so I have no idea what the issues were, but two years removed from a national championship, the talent… But that happens on teams where you just don’t have chemistry and you have internal stuff that’s going on. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I know I can look at what they’ve recruited the last few years and know they’ve got players.

“Certainly it’s easier for them when you just have one down year. But a down year typically for the ones you’re referring to is probably six wins I would think. Those of us who came into programs with two and three wins, if you’ll look, with the exception of one year stretches, it’s more difficult. But of course I would say that.”

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